So far, mobile technology has not
changed the way Baron does business. “I think phones are still a bit
slow, not to mention tiny to read.
It is difficult to do real research,
more than a price comparison, on
a phone,” she notes.
Baron’s situation is actually close
to the norm, for now. Few retailers,
especially smaller, independent
ones, have the means to roll out
mobile retail technology. The February Zoomerang survey found that
only 22 percent of shoppers have
been to a store where associates
use mobile devices instead of cash
registers. Still, 41 percent said they
would prefer retailers replace cash
registers with tablets to make room
for additional merchandise. Half of
the 25-to-34-year-olds group would
like to see registers replaced with
Steven Bridge, owner of Madison,
N.J.-based Bridge Kitchenware, is
also not seeing customers shop with
smartphones in hand, “at least not
yet,” he says. Still, it would make
sense for specialty retailers to embrace mobile technology “when
mobile phones become payment
So, is mobile the new e-commerce?
Is it a threat to business or an aid
to business? “It can’t hurt,” Bridge
feels. “Business needs something
to jump-start it right now.”
and office supplies, these figures are
enough to concern retailers, especially
because online sales are on the rise, with a
20 percent increase in sales of small appliances and home-improvement products in
2011, according to NPD.
But there are ways specialty retailers can
combat showrooming. Gourmet Business
spoke to manufacturers at the IH+HS that
offered a range of suggestions and solutions.
One suggestion was to embrace technology more fully, suggested Chef’s Choice’s
founder Dan Friel. “Retailers can make use
of computers to verify prices and either
match prices or give a small percentage
off. Say to the consumer, ‘Save your
gasoline and buy it here.’”
In effect, what Friel is suggesting is to beat
consumers at their own game, considering
that many are already using smartphones
to check prices while in the store.
It’s very important for the retailer to verify
the price, Friel emphasized, and that can
be done in a variety of ways, such as with
an iPad. The important thing is “do not let
them go home” to buy it elsewhere.
Robert Varakian, president and chief executive officer of Nambé, suggested taking
personal service as far as possible. “Offer
as much extra service as possible.” Nambé
offers engraving, for example. In addition,
he said, making returns a simple process
invites repeat business.
“Stores need to build a sense of loyalty by
following up on birthdays and anniversaries.
If a customer walks in, you could say,
‘Hello Mr. James, your wife’s birthday is
coming. We have a collection she likes.’ I
don’t think there’s anything revolutionary
about old-fashioned loyalty. If a salesperson
knows your name, you know you won’t
have a hassle.”
Varakian also suggested retailers should
make their store as interesting as possible,
and that’s advice that Alessio Alessi, presi-
dent of Alessi, is already taking to heart.